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Just so we all know who Camille Saint-Saens is, he's the guy who composed this.  And you didn't.

The Swan, from Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saens.  Cello: Mischa Maisky.  Introduced by Roger Moore.

Continue below the fold, and you'll get to hear one of the great stereo-buster orchestral works by Saint-Saens, The "Organ" Symphony.

When I was younger, when we wanted to test our stereo speakers, there were a few LPs we would turn to first.  Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra (you may know it as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) was one.  We'll be getting to that before the year's over.  This was one of the other ones.

I had a pair of JBL monitor speakers, some of the best you could get, that I inherited from my brother's music business.  The woofers were torn and loose, which made them all the better, because you could watch it wobble like it was an eye that was going to pop out.  Yeah!  

Anytime a friend said he just bought a new stereo, I was over there in a heartbeat with Saint-Saens and Strauss and Mahler!

What makes the Saint-Saens #3 so especially good for this is... well, the organ.  In case anybody doesn't know, let's remind everybody what a postromantic organ is.  It's not something you can just roll onto a stage.  It's usually a permanent part of the building.

The Great Organ at Royal Albert Hall, Liverpool, England, as illustrated during its first performance.  

They still use the same organ at Albert Hall.  Albert Hall: the place we know how many holes it takes to fill.  There are modern photographs of it, but it's covered with stage junk.  I prefer this drawing.  Do you see that little guy in the very center of the drawing, just above the orchestra pit?  That's the organist.  That whole thing behind him and the orchestra isn't just baroque ornamentation.  It's the Great Organ, and it's not even the biggest organ in the world by a longshot.  So, obviously, this is not your dad's Hammond.  You can't just pack it and move it to another venue.  

The nineteenth century saw an arms race in the size of organs.  Giggle yourselves to death over that, if you wish; I don't care.  By the time we get to Saint-Saens Symphony #3, the arms race was at its peak.   He had no logistical problems in finding a hall that could perform it.

The range of human hearing goes from about 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz.  Hertz meaning sound vibrations per second.  Most people don't even have hearing that wide, especially if you're an old fart like I am.  Organs like the one at Royal Albert Hall are very often able to go well below the range of human hearing.  What's the point of that?  Subsonic vibrations that you can't hear can still be felt.  Blow your socks off, man.  One recording of the Saint-Saens at Royal Albert Hall goes as low as 16 Hz for instance.  Many recording devices don't even bother trying.  So a GOOD recording of the Saint-Saens is a precious thing.

I can't promise you this is a good recording, because, well, face it, it's Youtube, and that takes away some of the audio quality.  If I was in the market for a new CD of this, though, the Pretre one is the one I'd want to buy.  Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra's 1959 recording has a big following, but -- face it -- you want the best audio, not the best performance, when you listen to this sucker.  

So let's go to it!

Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 in C minor, "The Organ Symphony."  First movement:  Adagio — Allegro moderato.  The Paris Conservatoire Orchestra conducted by Georges Pretre.  Maurice Durufle on the Salle Walgram organ.

Introduction (0:00)

The symphony begins softly and mysteriously, wandering with a vague tonality, far from the C minor we've been advertised.  It reminds me a bit of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde theme.  That might be deliberate.  This material makes scattered bits and pieces of what will become the main theme.

Exposition First Theme (1:10)

The first theme begins,  establishing a firm home key of C minor.  This theme is the main actor of the symphony.  It will appear in different forms in all four movements.  Here, in its first appearance, it has a subdued but agitated tension.  First we hear it in the strings, at 1:45, in the woodwinds.  

At 2:20, it starts to build up steam and works itself towards an orchestral mini-climax.  As it fades, we begin to transition to a new key and...

Exposition Second Theme (3:38)

A new, gentler, contrasting major key theme that lifts the tension.  This too builds up to an impressive orchestral mini-climax (beginning at 4:15), brass and drums all out.

Development Section (5:06)

As the climax fades, the agitated playing of the strings emerges from underneath it, and we transition into the development.  A tripping rhythm develops.  At 5:19, the opening Tristan-ish motif returns briefly in the woodwinds.

(5:48)  Parts of the gentler second theme are now developed, the key ascending in steps.  The first theme rudely intrudes, creating conflict.  At 6:50 the conflict reaches a head.  Leading to...

Recapitulation First Theme Again (7:10) With a hard thump from the drums, we return to the home key of C minor and the main theme, but it is NOT subdued this time!  At 8:26 we begin to transition to...

Recapitulation Second Theme Again (8:56)

The second theme returns, but in the wrong key, at first in F then in E, the key that the movement will end in.

This is unorthodox but DELIBERATE.  Saint-Saens is treating the first two movements as an organic entity, the first movement merging straight into the second.  It will be in D flat.  

Coda (9:36)

This is less of a coda, more like a bridge passage to the second movement.  It is reminiscent of the develoment section.  The tripping rhythm is back, the Tristan-like motif returns...  But then it very gently drops us down from E major to D-Flat major, setting us up for the second movement.

The video clips for this symphony are broken up into four parts, one part for each movement.  I can't help that.  But the last strains we heard merge directly into the next clip.

------------------------ END OF FIRST, BEGINNING OF SECOND MOVEMENT -------------------------

Saint-Saëns Symphony #3, Second Movement: Poco adagio

As the first movement fades away, the temperature drops.  It's like cool, still water now.  The atmosphere has changed and becomes sacred.

As the movement begins, the organ finally makes its appearance, but in its gentlest form, forming a soft cradle for the main theme of this movement.  It also serves to create the sacred feeling of this movement, organ and harps creating a sense of being in church.  

The format here is like that of the slow movement of Beethoven's Ninth: A main theme that consists of a long melody in two parts, with variations on that theme.

We begin with organ and harps for accompaniment, the organ playing long chords.  The main theme is played in unison by the strings, creating a single voice.  Saint-Saens seems to deliberately eschew counterpoint in this movement, setting up a nice contrast for the fugal final movement to come.

At 1:20, the woodwinds take up the theme, and the other instruments come in to provide support.  It is comforting and serene.

At 2:20 comes the second half of this long melody.  It's based on the Tristan-like theme from the symphony's opening.  The use of violas in a single voice here only further cements in my mind the comparison with Wagner's Tristan.  

At 4:02, the theme fades away, and the concluding chords of the organ are all that are left for a moment.  And then begins the first variation.  The violins present us a more ornamented version of the main theme and give it a more poignant harmonic twist.

At 5:09 it seamlessly merges into a more ornamented variation on the second half of the theme.

Intruder alert!  Into this serene, angelic atmosphere, at 5:55, an ominous minor key contrasting section sneaks in on tiptoes.  (Actually, on plucked strings).  It's the theme from the first movement, the theme that won't go away.

At 7:02, as the last variation begins, the tip-toeing plucked strings stay with us.  

At 7:33, it reaches upwards, upwards again, UPWARDS AGAIN...  And oooooooh....  climax to the movement.

We finish off with post-orgasmic cradling sounds.

--------------------- END OF SECOND MOVEMENT ---------------------

Coffee break time!  Grab a cup.  I'm going to be sipping out of my own special Cup of Triumph, thanks to the generosity of a Dailykos Thurday Classical Music patron!  Mmmm...  Brazil Cerrado.  

(Really, I had to take a break just now so I went and picked about four pounds of cherry tomatoes.  Now my hands smell like tomato bushes.  Nice.  I like to smell like tomato bushes.)

The Saint-Saens Symphony #3 is designed so that the first and second movements run together and merge into each other, and the third and fourth do as well.  This tends to limit your coffee breaks.  Part of the powerful effect of the final movement comes from the sudden BLAAAAAST of the organ at the beginning of the finale.  So I regret that they are in separate clips.  However, the clips came that way, and, besides, it's easier for me to comment on it like that.

So let's resume where we left off...

Saint-Saëns Symphony #3, Third Movement: Allegro Moderato -- Presto

Out of the major key bliss of the second movement, we return to minor key hell.  This movement is a traditional scherzo.  The first theme should seem familiar.  It's a variation on the main theme of the first movement.  The theme that just won't go away.

At 1:50, a middle section labeled Presto (meaning, to be played quickly, or at least faster than allegro) begins.  A fast chirping theme is played in the woodwinds, accompanied by playful glissandos on the piano that seem to whiz right past your nose.  

Does the "fast chirping woodwind" theme seem familiar?  It should.  It's a major key variation on... the main theme of the first movement!  Again...

At 3:57, the tempo slows back to allegro moderato and the first theme of the movement returns.

At 5:44, the Presto seems like it's trying to return.  But there is a new theme emerging underneath it from the basses.  As the presto fades away and it is played by just the violins, it becomes poignant.  We can hear more clearly here that it's based on the second movement.  

As this fades away, before the movement ends, there is just a touch, for a moment, in the deep basses, of the first movement's main theme.  Now in a major key.  A feeling of tension has been created.  All the better for what is coming...

Saint-Saëns Symphony #3, Fourth Movement: Maestoso — Allegro

Introduction (0:00)

BLAAAST!  Did we mention there was an organ in this symphony?  Yup.  We heard it a little bit in the second movement, but not like this, here, where it really stands up and takes command of the auditorium.  It is almost used more as a special effect in this context than as a musical instrument.

The theme that emerged from the basses at the end of the previous Presto steps forward and announces its presence.  BLAAAAST again!  And again.

At 0:33, we finally get the famous march theme of the finale.  This was used, in different ways, as the theme music for the film Babe.  The organ drops out, and the strings present it with the trickling-water sound of four-hands piano, another orchestral effect unusual in symphonies.

This march theme is based on the main theme of the first movement, which we've heard several times.  But listen closely, and you can hear some other simlarities.  In fact, it sounds an awful lot like the Dies Irae!  Only in a triumphant major key rather than the grotesque minor key that we heard it in Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.  

But it also reminds us of something else: Beethoven's Ode to Joy theme.  What Saint Saens has done in this symphony is recreate Beethoven's Ninth, but instead of saving a choir of human voices for special effect, he has used an organ!  The general form of the symphony is similar in other ways, using the same Beethoven "Triumph Symphony" format.  

Very clever.  

At 1:14, the organ takes up the march theme and the orchestra piles on with all its forces, the brass turning it into a fanfare.  

Exposition First Theme (1:56)

The rhythm of the march changes a little bit, and it is transformed into a fugue, a form traditionally associated with the organ.  More instruments pile on, the vertical density increases.  

Exposition Second Theme (2:34)

We hit an air pocket.  The other instruments drop out, leaving just the organ.  An oboe emerges here above the organ, and plays one of the most beautiful themes Saint-Saens ever composed/, and he was a very talented composer of melodies.  

Development Section (3:24)

The basses come in.  The rhythm changes, the key changes, the mood darkens.  

At 3:44, the brass repeat the theme that emerged from the end of the last movement's presto.  A section of vertically dense counterpoint ensues

At 4:19, the march theme heroically tries to break through.  The organ joins in to assist.  The key continues to change, ascending.  The atmosphere is turbulent.  

Recapitulation Second Theme Again (5:17)

Skipping the return of the first theme, at 5:17, the mood breaks, and the second theme returns, taking us finally back to the home key of C major, warmth and comfort.

Coda (or second development, if you prefer) (6:05)

You can describe it either way.  Like in the beginning of the first development, the brass announce the theme from the end of the Presto.  It's similar to the first development UNTIL...

(6:44) The deep brass and the organ restate part of the main theme.  The strings whir around restlessly.  The tension rises.  The organ comes in with its heavy foot...  And with full orchestra, we come home to C major, restating the march theme.  

But the march speeds up!  We can see we're heading towards the end.  The climactic race begins.  

At 8:19, the organ bass pedals plunge through the floor (not necessarily audible on this clip, so buy the album) as we converge on the ear-shattering final chords.



I don't usually try to do four movements in one diary.  It's difficult, and I suspect most people don't read it all.  If I was going to cover this, I didn't want to leave any of it out, because the four movements of this really are inseparable they are woven together.

Next week: Dvorak!  We're going to listen to lots of Dvorak in the next few weeks.  I will start with one of Dvorak's chamber pieces -- and I'm open to suggestions on that, although I'm leaning towards The American Quartet.

Originally posted to Dumbo on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 09:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA, Progressive Hippie, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Love it. (11+ / 0-)

    I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Saint-Saëns... His solo piano work isn't exactly world-class, but when he managed to align a great theme with a great setting, he often knocked it out of the park.  It's between this and the "Bacchanale" from Samson et Dalila for my favorite.  Both are a little cheesy, but so well-crafted and fun.

    Thanks for this... It's been too long since I listened to this piece.  Who the heck puts a 4-hand piano alongside an organ in the middle of a symphony!

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 09:19:42 PM PDT

  •  what I've always wondered (6+ / 0-)

    about the Saint-Saens third is why the final movement always seems so underdeveloped. Of course, it's crunchy and loud and fist-pumpingly awesome, but some sort of exposition repeat (back to the bar right before the piano four hands comes in) would have been wise, and a deeper working-out of the themes in the finale would have been better (cf. Brahms 1st, which gives us triumph AND a more complex musical journey).

    Given what Saint-Saens already produced, I would have been more than glad to give him a few extra minutes, but alas, too many listeners will walk away thinking they have heard an "orchestral showpiece" and not a symphony. The first one to blame for that impression is Saint-Saens himself! Whenever I hear the last movement of this work, I wish he had spent some time in securing the symphonic form so that what he had achieved in terms of orchestration and melody could complemented by musical substance and complexity.

    •  I couldn't disagree more. (7+ / 0-)

      The finale is pretty impressive just on a musical basis.  Take away the organ and the orchestral effects, even take away the cool melodies of the march and the oboe theme, and you've still got some awesome counterpoint and development.

      The truncated recapitulation, if that's what we want to call it, isn't that unusual.  In fact, since you mention Brahms #1, he truncates his recapitulation in the final movement and omits the first theme in the recap.

      In fact, I'm not sure it needs to be categorized as Sonata-allegro and then made comparison to this way.  In some ways, this is like a Romantic-period impression of a Bach fugue.  We have the intro, which could instead be called a prelude, then the fugue proper as the part I labeled as the first theme.  The second theme could be seen as contrasting material -- a frequent Bach device.  The return of the Presto theme in the brass during the development could be seen as a fugal counter-subject for the first theme material.  

      If you look at it that way, then all questions about development and recap size and placement become irrelevant.

      Really, this is good music.  The form might not be as complicated as Brahms, but just in terms of form, I think it's as good or better than the symphonies of his contemporaries, like Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.

      •  Good music (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        profewalt, Dumbo

        Of course it is good music; it's great music, even. My point is that I have this nagging sense it could be greater still. The first three movements promise something that the last doesn't quite deliver (except in terms of sheer volume and energy). In the finale, Saint-Saens very skillfully presents a big tune in the manner of Beethoven 9 or Brahms 1, raising our (or my) expectation, and then he doesn't drive the point home as does his predecessors.

        Brahms doesn't have a repeat in his finale, but he gives a full restatement of his theme before the development (one of those cool fake-outs that seems like a repeat but then veer off into development). Saint-Saens only gives us that magical, shimmering theme once in its original form. I understand the fugal elements that he deploys, but for me it just doesn't come off as substantial enough to receive the weight of the previous three movements. Still, even with its limitation, Saint-Saens 3 is a work that I very much enjoy, although I'm not sure Dvorak 7 or 8 come up short by comparison.

        Favorite recording: Barenboim/Chicago (DG).  Will knock your socks off.

  •  I have always loved this symphony.... (11+ / 0-)

    and have played it when I've been in the mood to hear a blockbuster.
    I note that the organist in this recording is Maurice Durufle, a great French organist and also a composer.  His Requiem is one of my favorite pieces.  He was too much the perfectionist in his compositions and thus not a prolific composer, but some of his compositions are gems.

    A camel can carry a lot of gold, but it still eats alfalfa.

    by oldliberal on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 10:48:44 PM PDT

  •  Regarding sound and performances: (9+ / 0-)

    The Boston Symphony/Munch recording of 1959 is not only a fine performance, it sounds great too.  When recording, it always helps to have a hall with great acoustics to record in, and Boston Symphony Hall is about as good as it gets--with an excellent pipe organ that is well suited to the piece.  The great Lewis Layton was the recording engineer for this RCA production, and it is one of the best things he did.

    There is also a recording of a terrific performance of the Saint Saens Symphony No. 3 (on the Mercury label) with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Paray and the legendary Marcel Dupre as organist.  However, this 1957 recording was made in Detroit's Ford Auditorium which had rather dry, unforgiving acoustics--it is very clear, well balanced, stunningly played, but the tonal qualities can't match what you hear in the Boston Symphony recording--acoustics do matter. Still, for a recording that shows off Saint-Saens' music, it is the best I've heard.

    •  I just listened to the clip (6+ / 0-)

      of the last movement (Pretre et al).  The recording is OK, but Boston/Munch sounds better.  The Pretre performance is so-so--simply not on the same level as Boston/Munch or Detroit/Paray--Pretre was a good conductor, but he did not have as good an orchestra to work with in his recording.

      •  You could be right. (4+ / 0-)

        However, the Munch recording is somewhat dated.  You have to give the old RCA recording techs full credit for being the best in the world at the time.  But the analog RCA recordings, as good as they were for their time, aren't necessarily as good audio quality as a more modern recording.

        ALSO... (either the Ormandy or Munch recording, one of them) it was recorded on two continents, with the organ in Europe and the orchestra in America, the tapes then merged.  I can understand why they might have needed to do that.

        •  Wasn't the Munch (4+ / 0-)

          The Munch was unusual, though, in that they actually dispersed the orchestra throughout Symphony Hall to balance out the organ and "air out" the sound. (There's a paragraph about it in the liner notes on my CD.)

        •  The Munch recording (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          was done in Boston's Orchestra Hall in 1959, using the organ of that hall, a very fine American-built Skinner pipe organ.

          The orchestra was placed on the main floor of the hall (audience seats were removed to make room) and an array of 3 microphones was hung in front of the organ pipes onstage.  This separation of the orchestra and organ pickups allowed some control of the balance between the two.

          Regarding dated audio technology: by the mid-1950's the microphones, tape recorders and associated electronics that were available were good enough in the ways that matter to make master tapes that compare well with anything we can do today.  However, those master tapes could not be sold to the public--it was necessary to make a consumer product, which at that time would have been open reel tape copies or LP disks.  The production chain for the consumer product was far from perfect and degraded the sound relative to the master tapes.

          Now we have a digital production chain that, if used properly, can give us very accurate reproduction of those master tapes and allow us to hear just how good they were.  Note my emphasis: the human element has always been a crucial factor affecting the final results.

  •  A perfect way to start the morning. (6+ / 0-)

    Things to do; places to go and people to see.  Can't get the wife and kids out of bed?  Give 'em Movement Four at maximum warp.

    I count even the single grain of sand to be a higher life-form than the likes of Sarah Palin and her odious ilk.

    by Liberal Panzer on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 04:23:11 AM PDT

  •  One of the very best symphonies (6+ / 0-)

    ever written.    One of my very favorites.

  •  Beautiful (6+ / 0-)

    Making the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and that's a lot of work considering how much hair is there. I really do need to track down a HQ recording now. Tho I may have it on vinyl come to think of it...

    "The Internet Never Forgets, and Republicans Never Learn." - blue aardvark

    by SC Lib on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 06:56:28 AM PDT

  •  All four movements ... (5+ / 0-)

    ... are fine with me!

    As I wait at JFK Airport -- with a bonus encore of the 4th Movement.

    ... my income falls because you’re spending less, and your income falls because I’m spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better. -- P. Krugman

    by MT Spaces on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 07:05:05 AM PDT

  •  Still have my JBL 4311's (4+ / 0-)

    They've been drying out in a closet for about 15 years. Really need an overhaul, the woofers are cracked. I was gonna give them away, but a an old pair costs as much as what I paid new in 1976.
    Love Saint-Saens, don't like organ music, but I will give this a listen this afternoon.

    "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

    by shmuelman on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 07:47:39 AM PDT

  •  I've loved the Organ Symphony (5+ / 0-)

    It's one of Saint-Saëns's most sublime creations. My favorite section, though, is the Adagio—it feels like it should be the Introït of a Requiem. (Then again, I think the theme music from "Password Plus" could be the basis for a "Gloria" in the style of Bernstein's Mass, so that gives you a sense of what goes on in my brain.)

  •  Am I misreading the score or are there (5+ / 0-)

    two pianos also?

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 08:09:08 AM PDT

  •  "Babe" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JKTownsend, martyc35, Dumbo

    Any kids or adults who watched and loved the movie Babe remember this theme.

    Gotta run. Day off and crab pots to set!

    Both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party deigns to throw us a few bones from the table on which to gnaw and squabble over, but it's just kabuki.

    by ozsea1 on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 08:48:45 AM PDT

  •  Looking at this at work, so I can't yet run the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JKTownsend, martyc35, Dumbo

    music.  However, I always love music using organs!  Toccata and Fugue caught my attention when I was very young (a bit over 40 years ago), so I'm looking forward to hearing this.  Thanks for this series!

    -8.88, -7.77 Social Security as is will be solvent until 2037, and the measures required to extend solvency beyond that are minor. -- Joe Conanson

    by wordene on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 08:53:38 AM PDT

  •  Great diary! Thank you! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JKTownsend, martyc35, Dumbo

    I crashed and burned early last night.  

    I love this music.  

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 09:13:06 AM PDT

  •  You've pretty much covered it, Dumbo ... (6+ / 0-)

    ... in your masterly analysis and recommendations for recordings. Thanks for taking the time and effort (and voluminous amounts of coffee) needed. My only addendum is that Saint-Saens' other symphonies are worth seeking out, if one is curious. He wrote five (that are known anyway), but only three were published. Two of them (one unpublished and the Symphony No. 1) were written in his teenage years! Even Berlioz was astonished by this prodigy, saying (very tongue-in-cheek) that all Saint-Saens lacked was inexperience! The second published symphony is a masterwork of economy and precision, but my favorite (in addition to the third symphony) is the unpublished "Urbs Roma": the orchestration leaves me marveling. Unfortunately, not too many recordings are available of these works. I most often turn to the set of complete symphonies from Orchestra National de l'ORTF conducted by Jean Martinon, released by EMI, which sadly are marred by horrible engineering and mastering. The orchestra's playing is obscured by sonic murk, and the stereo panning is unbalanced IHMO. These recordings generally come as a complete set, which is good for the pocketbook. However, don't get the set primarily for the Organ Symphony, as it is workmanlike in performance and it's marred by the muddy sound. The reason for adding the set to one's library is the other four symphonies, which are sadly neglected in concert halls.

    Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me, "how good, how good does it feel to be free? " And I answer them most mysteriously, "are birds free from the chains of the skyway? " (Bob Dylan)

    by JKTownsend on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 09:31:03 AM PDT

  •  Thanks! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    martyc35, JKTownsend, Dumbo, ozsea1

    This brought back memories from the 70's--lying on the floor listening to an LP of the Durufle/Petre recording on a friend's stereo with some kind of souped up speakers--and at one point having the physical sensation that seemed like aircraft taking off right over our heads.  I have an mp3 of a Von Karajan/Berlin Phil recording on my phone and I suppose it doesn't matter what I plug the darn thing into, it won't sound or feel quite like that.  

    •  It's much more fun to hear with (0+ / 0-)

      friends, especially friends who have never heard it before on good speakers.  

      I usually extend my arms out with my fingers pointing down like claws and bring them down hard when that first chord of the finale begins.  Playing the "air organ."

  •  Love the last bit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    martyc35, JKTownsend, Dumbo

    The only way to listen to that final movement is surrounded by great big woofers, volume up as loud as you (or the speakers) can take and let it rip! The whole body effect of the loud very low bass notes is absolutely orgasmic (if that word is allowed). I could listen to it until I went deaf or crazy, but I LOVE it.

    I reject your reality and substitute my own - Adam Savage

    by woolibaar on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 10:24:37 AM PDT

  •  Don't know if the statistic still holds, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    martyc35, JKTownsend, Dumbo, ozsea1

    ... but at one time, the title for largest pipe organ installation was held by the organ in (what was then called)  Atlantic City convention hall. I had an old LP, "Bach on the Biggest" performed by E. Power Biggs.

    According to the liner notes, the instrument had 7 manuals,(can't remember how many stops), and its lowest note was produced on a 64' pipe, carved out of a single redwood tree, that vibrated at 8 Hz and through which 3 humans could crawl side by side.

    I don't suppose you heard that note - you felt it - like the demo vibrating chairs at Brookstone.

    Evolution IS Intelligent Design!

    by msirt on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 10:35:08 AM PDT

    •  Ah, now that's a big organ. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Yup, there are pictures of the Atlantic City organ on the web.  Even a wikipedia entry.

      There are many fansites for the individual great organs of the world.  The St. Louis Wanamaker Organ seems to be the one that gets the most hits when I google the subject.  It's the biggest pipe organ that's operational, meaning, I suppose, the Atlantic City one isn't always ready for duty.

      From the Wanamaker site:

      1904 St. Louis World's Fair — Festival Hall

      In 1909, Philadelphia merchant-prince John Wanamaker bought the instrument for his new Philadelphia emporium. Thirteen freight cars were required to ship the entire organ from St. Louis, and installation took two years...

      [...] The largest pipe is made of flawless Oregon sugar-pine three inches thick and more than 32 feet long—so large that a Shetland Pony was once posed inside for publicity photos.

      •  The Atlantic City Convention Hall venue ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo, JKTownsend, ozsea1

        ... where this organ is housed, has some remarkable history.  It was built in the early 20th century and was large enough to house football games (mostly  by the local Atlantic City High School) under its roof (an early version of the astrodome).  All the Miss America pageants, hosted by Bert Parks were held there, the 1964 Democratic convention that nominated LBJ was held there, and it was the venue for many large scale shows and entertainment events, including the Ice Capades.

        I used to spend summers in Atlantic City (birthplace of my father), went to see Ice Capades shows,  but, you know, I never heard a note from that organ.

        Evolution IS Intelligent Design!

        by msirt on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 10:34:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, did I get lucky! I was able to listen (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JKTownsend, Dumbo, ozsea1

    to the whole thing with headphones (supplied by my visiting daughter) last night, and what a thrill!

    Would you believe that we had ONE very large JBL speaker (housed in a 1950s walnut case) and listened in "hi-fi" mono for many years just to be able to hang on to that speaker. It was years before I switched to stereo, but these headphones are helping me feel what it must have been like.

    This was wonderful, and thank you, thank you. I am inside the music.

    W. H. Auden: "We must love one another or die."

    by martyc35 on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 11:25:23 AM PDT

  •  I'm going for a total Saint-Saens immersion... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JKTownsend, Dumbo, ozsea1

    ... in August at Bard College's Summerscape Music Festival.  Each summer they pick a composer and do a series of lectures, chamber music performances, and larger scale concerts performed by the American Symphony Orchestra.  

    This summer the focus is on Saint-Saens and his world.  Stuff by him and others associated with that music culture - lots of Frenchies: Faure (no slouch either), Chabrier, etc. Some works planned are the Organ Symphony, the 5th Piano Concerto("Egyptian"), and Saint-Saen's "other" grand opera, Henry VIII.

    I can't say I'm an avid Saint-Saensaphile, but every so often I'll hear an interesting piece on the radio and have a devil of a time trying to identify the composer from its style elements.  Very often the composer will turn out to be Saint-Saens. Should be an interesting festival.

    I'm not sure what the organ situation is at the new and architecturally freaky Sosnoff Theater at Bard's Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Hopefully, the house will have an organ installed, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a digital implementation instead.

    Evolution IS Intelligent Design!

    by msirt on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 11:55:14 AM PDT

  •  There are no harps in this work, are there? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, JKTownsend

    But the second movement includes--gasp--a TROMBONE playing the MELODY! And very softly, too! One of my trombone teachers insisted it should be played almost inaudibly (to which I replied, "What's the point?"), but he also said it was an audition piece. In any case, proof positive that the trombone, as some of us always knew, is capable of sweet, soft, tone.

    •  Checking now, and no, there are no (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JKTownsend, ozsea1

      harps.  I mistook that for plucked strings.  

      The symphony is scored for a rather large orchestra comprising 3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, piano (two and four hands), organ, and strings.
      There are some really great brass parts in there.
  •  60's Flashback (4+ / 0-)

    We used to sit around relaxing and I would say "Do you want to hear some Classical?"  My friends, somewhat lured by the herbal refreshments, would say "sure, why not".  Just to humor me no doubt.

    As it played I would keep turning the volume up so they could hear it better.  Then Wham!  Fantastic music and a great reaction.

    Years later I mentioned to a friend how it didn't have the impact today that it had back then.

    He pointed out that we were stoned back then.


    "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve; if impeached, I will not leave" -Anon

    by Graebeard on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 01:44:53 PM PDT

  •  Thank You (5+ / 0-)

    for the wonderful memory of me preforming that a number of years ago..It was a GREAT piece to play bass trombone of the rare ones where the conductor wanted me yo play louder for a change.

  •  late reply; 1st, the Royal Albert Hall is in..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ......London, not Liverpool.  That aside, it took a while to dawn on me about Camille Saint-Saens' "Organ" Symphony that the whole work is derived from one theme, stated at the start, and is permutations of the theme.  It also dawned on me that the theme is a variation or riff on the Dies irae, IMHO.

    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

    by chingchongchinaman on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 03:54:00 PM PDT

    •  I see you're right. I had it confused (0+ / 0-)

      with St. George's Hall.

      With 7,737 pipes, it [the organ at St. George's] was the largest organ in the country until a larger one was built at the Royal Albert Hall in 1871, after which an organ even larger than the one at the Royal Albert Hall was constructed at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, using over 10,000 pipes.
      There's also some kind of Wagner Tristan action going on in the intro of the symphony that I haven't figured out.  Saint-Saens was in the un-Wagner camp, so it doesn't make sense he would make a tribute to Wagner that way.

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